Amy E. Wallen

marlene lopez

Amy E. Wallen is associate director at the New York State Summer Writers Institute and teaches creative writing at the University of California, San Diego Extension. Her first novel, MoonPies and Movie Stars, was a Los Angeles Times bestseller. She is the author of When We Were Ghouls: A Memoir of Ghost Stories (University of Nebraska Press). When Amy E. Wallen’s southern, blue-collar, peripatetic family was transferred from Ely, Nevada, to Lagos, Nigeria, she had just turned seven. From Nevada to Nigeria and on to Peru, Bolivia, and Oklahoma, the family wandered the world, living in a state of constant upheaval. When We Were Ghouls follows Wallen’s recollections of her family who, like ghosts, came and went and slipped through her fingers, rendering her memories unclear. Were they a family of grave robbers, as her memory of the pillaging of a pre-Incan grave site indicates? Are they, as the author’s mother posits, “hideous people?” Or is Wallen’s memory out of focus? When We Were Ghouls links the fear of loss and mortality to childhood ideas of permanence. It is a story about family, surely, but it is also a representation of how a combination of innocence and denial can cause us to neglect our most precious earthly treasures: not just our children but the artifacts of humanity and humanity itself.